Sunday, September 28, 2008

Solsbury Hill

I had several days off from work recently due to some shift trades I did, and after the recent events with my Mom, I thought it would be best to fly home and visit her while I had the time to do it.

I flew into Albuquerque on Friday morning, September 19th. I picked up my mother's dog, Gus, at the kennel where he'd been staying since Mom went into the hospital, which seemed like a nice place. He was happy to see me, though. Traffic really sucked on the drive over there due to road construction, so I ended up not getting to Mom's house until about two hours after I picked up my rental car at the airport.

Upon arrival at Mom's house, I discovered that my old housekey did not work. On her last trip there, my sister had changed out the locks in Mom's house from single-sided to double-sided to help prevent Mom from leaving the house. For whatever reason, I had assumed that the new double locks would match Mom's old single locks...I blame nobody but myself for this error, though.

I let Gus into the back yard (although he seemed confused about why we weren't going inside) and then called my cousin, and left a voicemail with her asking if she could bring her extra set of keys by the house. While exploring my options, I decided to look at the windows on Mom's bedroom. We have double (storm) windows on the house, and the outer window was unlocked, so I was able to pop the lock on the inner window and open it and get into the house that way. I had already turned off her alarm, otherwise that trick wouldn't have worked.

Looking back, I probably should have gone to Mom's care agency to pick up the keys, but I was kind of tired and wanted to get any rate, it all worked out. After I got in, the next trick was getting out, since I had no keys for any of the exterior doors, and they all needed a key to open (except for the door leading to the garage.) The wires for Mom's garage opener had been cut by my Mom's caregiver when Mom was trying to "escape" the house before she went to the hospital. However, I knew where the remote was kept, and it still worked, so I was able to get the door open and bring my rental car in. I was also able to fix the switch fairly easily. My cousin called me back and brought by her copy of the key a bit later, and I had two copies of the new housekey made at over the weekend.

I took Gus to see Mom that night (Friday) during visiting hours. During the week, the only visiting hours available were from 7-9 PM, although they had afternoon hours available for the weekend. The staff seemed unsure at the front desk about letting Gus in, but I explained that it was on her chart that he be allowed to visit, which the nurse on duty confirmed. Mom was able to visit Gus in an atrium area outside her unit. I then put Gus my rental car and went back to see the unit itself. Mom was very happy to see us, and seemed to be doing well, but wanted to go home. She also asked why my sister who had her admitted to the hospital was so "authoritarian." I explained that she was in the hospital because she needed help when she went in, not because of my sister. Mom seemed to have no recollection of the events leading up to going to the hospital (trying to escape the house, fighting with the caregivers, etc.)

The unit Mom was in seemed fairly nice, although it was definitely not exactly a "fun" place. However, all the staff seemed pretty dedicated and the patients appeared to be well cared for. Mom had made friends with some of the higher functioning people in the unit and she introduced me to them.

I visited again the next day (Saturday) in the afternoon. Mom's doctor came by while we were visiting in the atrium. I asked him about Mom being able to come home anytime soon, and he said that we could request that, but he had his doubts about it. I got the idea that for whatever reason, he thought she'd be better in an assisted living facility. I couldn't really talk in detail about things because Mom was sitting a few feet away at the time.

The doctor did mention that he couldn't give updates to three different family members (me and my two sisters.) I felt like asking him if he had been giving updates to ONE family member or not, since I think we'd all had issues getting in touch with him. (I thought he may have been leaving messages for my oldest sister, though, so I didn't press the issue.)

After a while, I took Gus out to the car and parked in a shady spot so he wouldn't get too hot before going back inside. One of my friends who is working on his psychology Ph.D. and was in the area (since my mother was at the university psych hospital) had asked if he could stop by and I said sure. Mom enjoyed seeing him and showed us around the unit until the visiting hours were ending...I then took Gus home and drove back to the university area to meet my friend for dinner.

Dinner was quite tasty, as was the beer at the brewpub we went to. I was kind of exhausted emotionally from the day so I took a nap when I got home instead of letting Gus out. This turned out to be a mistake since he pooped TWICE in the house while I was asleep. Resisting my urge to strangle him upon waking and discovering this, I cleaned up the mess and let him out into the back yard for a while. Unfortunately, although Gus is housetrained, he seems to have developed some bad habits in this area (probably caused by my mother not letting him out at appropriate times before she had a caregiver full-time at home.)

The following day (Sunday) my visit with Mom was not as long as the previous ones since we just visited with Gus in the atrium area. They sent a technician with us to monitor things. Mom seemed to enjoy this visit (actually, she enjoyed all of our visits) and again asked about going home. I explained, as I had on each of my previous visits, that this was our goal.

The technician, who was sitting nearby, said that normally there was a meeting between the doctors and caseworkers on Monday morning, and that there was a chance they would decide Mom could be released at the meeting (which she said should be over by 10 AM.) I was originally going to catch a flight leaving at 1:30 Monday afternoon, but I thought that if they made the decision yea or nay by then, it would be plenty of time to take Gus back to the kennel, return my car, and make my flight if there was a "no" decision (like if they needed to monitor Mom's reaction to the medicine she was on for a longer period or something.)

I finished up working on the house and the yard the next morning (Monday.) After I showered and got ready, I called the hospital around 10 AM, to find that the meeting was running late and wouldn't be over until 11. No, problem, I thought, so I finished packing and loaded the car, and called again at 11. The meeting was still continuing, and was also still continuing at 11:30. Since it was getting kind of late to make my flight at this point, I canceled my 1:30 trip listing and made reservations but did not check in on a later flight that afternoon (flexibility is one of the few advantages of space-available travel) and called to let the rental car company know I would probably not be returning the car on time.

I decided that if I was going to get answers I'd probably have better luck in person, so I drove to the hospital. (I left Gus at home, although I did take him for a walk before I left.) When I called mom's ward after arriving at the hospital, the meeting was FINALLY over but it sounded like no firm decision had been made. From what I could gather through the nurse, it sounded like they felt Mom was ready to leave but they wanted to find a proper placement for her before letting her out, such as an assisted living facility.

The nurse transferred me to my mother's doctor, who actually answered the phone for a change. I told him that if they could release Mom to her house, I could arrange for 24-hour care right away, and he said he'd talk to the social worker and get back to me later that afternoon. Since I was already at the hospital, I went directly to the social worker's office and waited for her to get back from a meeting she was at.

The social worker came back fairly soon after I sat down, and we discussed some assisted living facilities that she liked. I emphasized that I thought Mom would be better off at home for right now, and that when a move to a facility is necessary, we'd prefer not to rush into a place without visiting it first. I explained the situation with Mom to her...which is to say that her house was secure, and that we could arrange for immediate 24-hour care. (I still wasn't sure mom's old caregiver was available or not, but I knew her care agency has always been good about getting a caregiver out when we need them to, even if it's a substitute one.)

Mom's doctor came in while we were talking and was a bit surprised to see me, since I hadn't told him earlier that I was already at the hospital. I forget here the exact order of what happened some point they asked if I would like to go see Mom, I think so they could talk privately about what to do with her, so I went to her unit. Her doctor came in about 30 minutes later and said that he would go ahead and get working on a discharge order.

I told the social worker I could call Mom's care agency, and she said that it was standard practice for the hospital to call, but that I could call also if I wanted. I went ahead and placed the call to get things rolling and they said her old caregiver was indeed available, which I was very happy to hear, and that she could show up before I left for the airport the next morning.

Mom's doctor came out after he finished with his paperwork and discharge order. He said that the two things that seemed most important to Mom right now were her house and her dog, so that living at home wasn't a bad option as long as she is monitored. He seemed like a pretty nice person but BOY was he young-looking. (I found out later he was a second-year resident.)

Getting out of the hospital took quite a while...I got to the hospital a bit after 12 PM, and I don't think we left until around 3 PM. Mom said goodbye to the friends she'd made there (Mom always does seem to make friends wherever she goes, and I was happy she'd been socializing there.) They gathered up her stuff, I filled out a survey, and they escorted Mom out to my rental car.

I did feel like that if a family member hadn't been there at the hospital advocating our case for releasing Mom to her home, that they wouldn't have let her go home when they did. The squeaky wheel gets the grease sometimes, I suppose. I know Mom really needed to go into the hospital when she did, but I also felt that there wasn't a whole lot more the hospital could do for her by yesterday. She wasn't in denial about her disease, and seemed in temperament similar to how she was on my last visit to Albuquerque, which went very well.

After driving home and unloading the car/getting water/et cetera, we went to the post office to pick up Mom's accumulated mail and get delivery restarted effective today. We then went to Mom's pharmacy, and they filled part of her prescription for a new medicine she's taking to help stabilize her moods. They had her evening (250 mg) dose in stock, but not the smaller (125 mg) morning dose. The pharmacist said they could get it in by the following afternoon, but I explained I really wanted it then so that I could sort Mom's meds before I left town the next morning.

They found that a nearby Walgreen's pharmacy had some, although not a full 90-day dose as had been prescribed, but they did have 30 days worth. We headed up there and waited about 15 minutes in the drive-thru lane. The technician said it would be about 20 minutes to get it filled, so I said we'd come back after dinner. (By this time it was 6 PM, and I hadn't had any lunch due to waiting for Mom to leave the hospital, so I was starving.) Mom had said she'd like some Mexican food, so I took her to a well-known Albuquerque restaurant I knew she liked not too far away. Mom enjoyed dinner although she had trouble deciding what to order. We had a good meal, and went back to the Walgreen's around 7:15. Her prescription STILL was not ready.

After waiting about 15 minutes a clerk came back to the window and said that they could not fill Mom's complete prescription and wanted to give us a 5-day supply. I explained that we had gone there because her regular pharmacy had said that they had 30 days worth, and that I really needed that to sort Mom's meds before I left the following morning. We then waited another 15 minutes or so, but finally got the 30 day supply, and made it home close to 8 PM. I went ahead and sorted Mom's medicines before I went to bed.

I went to bed that night pretty early for me, since I had to get up early, but I slept fairly well (due to being fairly exhausted.) I got up just before 5 AM, showered, and got ready to go (again.) I brought the newpaper inside, and moved my rental car outside the garage before securing the garage opener switch so that it couldn't be opened easily in case Mom decided to try "escaping" again. I walked back into the entryway around 6:20 and Mom's caregiver was already waiting outside. (The agency had said she'd be there by 6:30.) When I let her in, she explained that she hadn't wanted to ring the doorbell and wake up Mom. I thanked her for coming so early today.

We went over the new meds, garage door opener, etc. and I told her Mom seemed back to where she was before the "escape the house" episode occurred. Mom was still asleep when I left for the airport about 7. My flight home left Albuquerque at 8:30, and was fortunately on time since I had to be at work about two hours after it landed. I would have updated the blog earlier, but I've been working every day since then until today.

Mom was initially euphoric to be at home again, although she seems to have mostly forgotten the hospital episode now. She had trouble with a new weekend caregiver and we're still searching for one she likes. However, she's been happy with her regular (weekday) caregiver and things are going about as well as can be expected.

Growing up, I know Mom did a lot of favors for me that I didn't or wasn't capable of fully appreciating at the time. While I can never completely pay her back for everything she did, I do feel like I helped a lot with getting her back home again this trip, which is where she wanted to be. I wish that me or one of my siblings actually LIVED in Albuquerque to help out with things when emergencies come up, but our lives have taken other paths. Anyhow, I was proud of myself for getting everything done, and I did think of the lyrics for Peter Gabriel's song, Solsbury Hill, on the drive home..."Grab your things, I've come to take you home."

Friday, September 12, 2008


Yes, I know I haven't been posting, soon after I made a promise to post regularly. It's been kind of a crazy week, but I do have off this weekend, so I thought I'd use the time to give everyone an update, before Babar breaks my pinkie.

As I have mentioned previously, my mother is suffering from dementia, most likely Alzheimer's. On a recent trip my sister made we determined for various reasons that my mother needed 24-hour care. Mom didn't take well to this at all and began fighting with her caregivers (which is totally out of character for her.) Anyhow, things got so bad that one of my sisters flew out there this past week, and after discussing things with a geriatric psychiatrist, it was determined that Mom needed to be hospitalized to help get her behavior under control. According to her doctor, she'd been having what is known as a manic episode.

Evidently with Alzheimer's, as the disease progresses, it can cause many symptoms similar to other psychiatric diseases (such as bipolar disorder.) While the underlying cause is different, treatments and medications for those same disorders can be effective in managing the problem. So, Mom is in the hospital while we attempt to find an appropriate treatment that will allow her to return back home (but still with 24-hour care.)

Anyhow, even though I haven't been out there myself, it's been a rather time-consuming week with phone calls and other sister and I tried to help out doing what we could while my sister who was in town dealt with things there. Right now, the house is locked up, mail and newspaper stopped, lights are on timers, and her dog is boarded at a kennel. We hope Mom will be able to return home within a week or so, depending upon how effective the new medications are. I'll probably make a trip out there soon after that.

Hope everyone is doing well and has a happy and safe weekend. Talk to you all later.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Blogging From The Library

Since I happened to get to the library today at rush hour, and the traffic in my city always sucks but ESPECIALLY at rush hour, I decided to kill some time (and follow up on my latest commitment to blog regularly) by posting from here.

I've honestly had better weeks. Saturday night, I was driving to work when I hit a curb, blowing out the right front tire of my car. I pulled onto a side street and went to get out my spare, when I discovered that while the spare was there, the jack was NOT. (I bought a new jack today...status on the tire iron is still undetermined. My trunk is kind of a mess right now.) Anyhow, I do have roadside assistance through my cell phone plan, and I called them and they showed up sooner than they said they would, so all was well. I ended up getting to work only about 30 minutes late.

For some reason this past week, I wasn't sleeping that well during the day, and on Sunday, I got a call from one of my sisters regarding Mom. The younger of my two sisters is out visiting her, and we have determined an increase in care hours to full-time, 24 hour care is now necessary. At that level of care, we won't be able to keep Mom at her home indefinitely, but we do have a good primary caregiver, so for now things are covered. This will give us time to pick the best long-term solution for her without rushing into anything, but I am afraid Mom will resist moving out of the house just as strongly as the last time we tried it. Anyone seen season one of The Sopranos and remember the reaction Tony's mother had to being forced into a retirement home? Picture that, only without the mafia or gang hits being involved.
(I should emphasize that my mother is a very kind and loving person, even with this illness going on...but when she is stubborn, she is VERY stubborn.)

We'll also probably need to find a home for her dog. She admitted that, prior to her previous move/tryout of a retirement place, that she got a dog in large part because she thought we couldn't make her move if she had a dog. The place she tried out did allow pets, but I kind of doubt that it will be an option for an Alzheimer's facility to take animals. Dealing with an elderly parent who has dementia is just as fun as you might imagine...I'm just glad my sisters and I are in it together. Doing everything on my own, especially living in a different city than her, would be overwhelming.

Anyhow, my point in bringing all this up is to say that my sleep was interrupted on Sunday, but I went back to bed around one P.M. to try and get some rest. I hadn't been sleeping well all week, and I hadn't set my alarm (I usually do set it when I take a late afternoon nap, but I forgot in this case...also I probably figured I'd wake up in plenty of time.) Anyhow. I did NOT wake up in plenty of time, instead waking about a half hour after I should have been at work. I called in, got ready, and drove to work ASAP but I ended up getting there about an hour after I was supposed toe, making me late for the SECOND night in a row. I really don't like being late, and the first night was kind of unavoidable, but the second night I felt very annoyed about. Oh least I was well rested for my shift.

I had off last night, and tonight, so I finally took the car to a tire place today. (I drove by yesterday but the place I went was closed for the holiday.) I was just going to get a single used tire to replace the one I'd damaged, but they had no used ones in stock, so I ended up driving to Discount Tire Company. He took a look at my tires and pointed out that another one of them had two bubbles on the sidewall. He said the other two were starting to get pretty worn also, but that I definitely needed to replace at least two of them. I got a quote for replacing all four, which was quite a bit less than twice the price of replacing two tires, so I went ahead and just got all four done. At least they have 90 days same as cash there. I do want to sell the car probably in two or three years, and while I don't expect to get much money for it, it will look better to have four tires all the same brand, with equal wear, rather than two different kinds.

I chose the Discount Tire location since it's close to my back doctor's office, and I had an appointment for this afternoon. I walked over to the appointment (walking is always kind of viewed as odd behavior in this town, apparently, but I survived crossing the street.) My doctor bugged me about buying some new shoes with better arch support, and I said I would look into it...but seeing as my car just got four new shoes of its own, I might have to wait a couple weeks. I still need to get my car's alignment checked also, and there's a couple other minor car maintenance items I need to take care of. Still, for a 12-year-old car, I have to admit it's been pretty darn dependable. Helps that it only has 60,000 or so miles on it.

I think that was enough fun stuff for one week. Hasn't been a whole lot else happening here other than the old work/sleep/work routine. I did get a new (used) coffee table from someone moving out of my apartment complex, a new metal table for my patio, and a new sixties-retro-looking reading chair and ottoman for my bedroom. Pictures to come sometime this week. I moved my old bar stools out to the patio to go with the table I bought. They're a bit high for it, but the color matches, and the bar stools are anodized aluminum with vinyl seat cushions, so I think they'll hold up reasonably well outdoors. They look better outside than serving as mini storage tables in my bedroom.

If past history is a guide, I'll probably get completely settled into my apartment right about the time it's time for me to move, but I am pretty happy with it, as far as apartments go, and the location is kick-ass.

Hope everyone out there had a Labor Day weekend that was MUCH MORE FUN than my own, and I'll talk to you again later this week.